Zilog Inc has updated its Z80 processor, now nearly 25 years old, for the internet marketplace, by adding embedded internet capabilities and a digital signal processor onto the Z80 core. The new eZ80 Internet Engine is a synthesizable core that retains compatibility with the original, and according to Zilog offers a clear migration path for […]
Zilog Inc has updated its Z80 processor, now nearly 25 years old, for the internet marketplace, by adding embedded internet capabilities and a digital signal processor onto the Z80 core. The new eZ80 Internet Engine is a synthesizable core that retains compatibility with the original, and according to Zilog offers a clear migration path for existing Z80 customers. The Z80 has been used in devices ranging from modems to games, and Zilog says there is a multi-billion dollar market potential for the new version, based on the huge installed base its built up since 1974. It anticipates the part will be used for devices carrying out electronic transactions over the internet, and in industrial control remote management.
The eZ80 essentially combines microprocessor and DSP digital signal processing capabilities onto a single chip, also embedding an optimized TCP/IP stack and linear addressing that supports up to 16Mb of addressing space. Zilog says its single-clock instruction fetch makes the eZ80 four times faster than the original at the same clock speed, and claims to be the first company to offer up to 80 MIPS in an eight-bit architecture. The TCP/IP stack has been fitted into less than 64Kb of main memory, compared with 250Kb for typical implementations, the company says. Combining MPU and DSP into a single chip results in a much cheaper implementation than alternatives using separate microprocessor and DSP parts.
Zilog says it hopes the new architecture will unify the currently highly fragmented Z80 market through a new Zilog Certified standard based around the eZ80. That will include a licensing program, certification program and an organizational structure to maintain the standard. Zilog claims an installed base of hundreds of millions of Z80s supported by the same number of lines of code. The original Z80 has been licensed to around 30 manufacturers, half of which have developed derivative products that are non-compatible with the original. End customers become locked into a supplier with limited or non-existent roadmap said Didier Le Lannic, senior VP and general manager of Zilog’s Communications Division. This manifests itself in the silicon, tool support, engineering expertise and documentation.
Because it’s a synthesizable core, the eZ80 should be easily portable to any process geometry, from .5 to .18 micron and beyond. Zilog says the DSP and address space capabilities give the chip performance capabilities above that of many current 16-bit microprocessors, but says it does have plans for 16-bit and 32-bit versions in the future. The eZ80 core will be available for licensing from November 1999, and the first product in the family will begin shipping early in 2000. It will be priced from $3 to $10, depending on configuration.
After years in the doldrums, Zilog was acquired in 1997 for $527m by the Texas Pacific Group, and in 1998 hire Lucent Technologies Inc’s microelectronics group president Curtis Crawford as its CEO. Crawford focused the company’s activities on embedded systems, communications and home electronics devices. Earlier this year the company began expanding again with the acquisition of fabless semiconductor company Seattle Silicon Corp. Campbell, California-based Zilog had 1998 revenue of $204.7m, and employs 1,300 people.